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Daily News - Friday, 23 October 2009

New plants to increase generation
President Leonel Fernandez headed a meeting with Minister of Hacienda Vicente Bengoa and representatives of the state electricity sector yesterday. They dealt with the increase in power generation and an operational costs reduction plan. The meeting also discussed the development of renewable energy projects, the state of the electricity distributors (EDEs), rural electrification programs and the government's debt with the electricity generators. Bengoa and the vice-president of the State-owned Electricity Companies (CDEEE), Celso Marranzini briefed reporters at a press conference in the Orlando Martinez Room of the Presidential Palace after the meeting.
Among the main announcements, according to El Nuevo Diario, was the mention of two new natural gas generators. One will be installed in Manzanillo Bay by the MAN-Forrestal group and the other in AES Andres by Lavalin. The Manzanillo facility will generate 600 megawatts and the one in AES Andres will produce 800 Megawatts. According to Marranzini, the installation of these two plants will change the way electricity is generated in the DR as well as lowering the costs. He added that the facility in AES Andres would be installed in 18 months, while Manzanillo would take 36 months. On the issue of the CDEEE's debt with the electricity generators, Marranzini said that he was hiring an auditing firm to look into the exact amount of the debt.

Government cuts back RD$13 billion
The government has made more than RD$13 billion worth of cutbacks in state spending, except in Health and Education, especially in the areas of goods and services as well as some internal financing that was obtained and was within the budget. The adjustments were made in response to the RD$21 billion shortfall in income so far this year.
Minister of Hacienda Vicente Bengoa and Budget Director Luis Hernandez made this announcement, and went on to report that the Board of Directors of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would meet on 6 November to review the Letter of Intent from the Dominican Government.
Bengoa said that the US$1.7 billion that the Dominican government will get from the International Monetary Fund is the same funding that was assigned in this year's Budget, but because of the problems that have arisen it had not been possible to disburse it.
The government does not have an allocation for a wage increase for doctors in next year's budget, which will be presented on 15 November, according to the law, due to the fact that there was no agreement for a salary adjustment with this sector, announced Bengoa. He said that the government has paid internal and foreign debts on time since 2008 and said that the 2010 budget would be similar to this year's, with some slight increases, which is normal. He also reported that the US$300 million of the US$500 million loan that was approved by the Inter-American Development Bank for the support of the budget segment designed to help the poor, will be disbursed this year and the other US$200 million in 2010. Part of these resources will be used to for focused subsidies.
He said that the government would include 400,000 people in the National Health Insurance (Senasa) and 280,000 in the Comer es primero (Eating Comes First) programs, and would focus on the Bonoluz and the Bonogas programs, since the money is for this purpose. Hernandez said that they were working on the first phase of the 2010 Budget and were about half way through. He said that the institutions had to submit their budgets by 28 October. Bengoa said that the 2010 Budget would be sent to Congress within the timeframe established by the Constitution, adding that this means that the deadline is next 15 November. For more details on the IDB loan, see:

Assembly comes to a close
Last night saw the close of proceedings at the Constitutional Revisory Assembly with the second reading of the proposed constitutional reform, submitted by President Leonel Fernandez, which included proposals from popular hearings and from the commission of jurists that worked on the text. Despite all its ups and downs, the president of the Assembly Reinaldo Pared Perez, described it as "one of the best Constitutions of the last few years". Proceedings began on Tuesday, 14 April and after 6 months of work the National Revisory Assembly ended debates on the general, transitional and final dispositions of the new Constitution. The proclamation will take place on the 6th of November, National Constitution Day. The assembly members approved three last articles yet to be heard on economic pluralism, the principle of tax regulations and internal controls of the Comptroller General of the Republic.
Among the general dispositions, the Assembly approved that "the judicial decisions that have acquired authority of irrevocable judgments handed down by the Supreme Court, in a direct case or hearing on unconstitutionality, at a date previous to or later than the start up of the workings of the Tribunal, cannot be examined by the Tribunal. And those that come after will be subject to the procedures that are established by the law."
Within the transitional dispositions, the Assembly approved that "the current judges of the Supreme Court of Justice who are not retired because they are under 75 years old will undergo a performance evaluation by the National Council of Magistrates which will determine their conformation". Moreover that, "the Council of the Judicial Power should be created within the first 6 months after the current Constitution goes into effect", and the Constitutional Tribunal within 12 months. Equally, the Supreme Court will keep the functions attributed by this Constituted to the Constitutional Tribunal and the Council of the Judicial Power until these entities are functioning. Also that the new members (5) of the Chamber of Accounts elected by Congress will be applied beginning 16 August 2010 and in 2016, and exceptionally, that can remain in their posts until 2016.
The assembly members decided that, "by exception the electoral assemblies to elect the municipal authorities will be held in 2010 and in 2016 on the third Sunday of May".
The Assembly had previously approved the date for these elections as the third Sunday in February. Moreover, they approved that the deputies elected at national level by an accumulation of votes, as well as in representation of the Dominican community overseas, will be elected, exceptionally, on the third Sunday of May in the year 2012 for a period of four years. As the PLD members felt that it would prejudice the current government and the PRD, the party that wins in 2012 the disposition that established that the "structuring of the General Budget for the State for programs will be executed beginning in 2012" was eliminated.

A farm plan to generate billions
The Dominican Agro-Business Board (JAD), with technical support from the Inter- American Development Bank (IDB) and the Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC) are drawing up a 20-year strategic plan, which includes generating during the first stage, of US$2.5 billion in farm exports by 2015, through the promotion of farming and agri-business projects. The aim is to export US$2.5 billion, which should continue increasing to US$5.0 billion in 2020, US$7.5 billion in 2025 and US$10.0 billion in 2030.
They will attempt to increase the supply by 40,000 hectares of crops and forestry products each five years, increasing the offer by 60,000 head of cattle, 60,000 milk cows, 70,000 pigs of 100 kg, 750,000 broilers, 600,000 egg layers, and 30,000 tons of fish products each five years and hope to create 70,000 new jobs in the farming sector.

Romero also accused of visa fraud
In addition to the charges of sexual misconduct with underage girls and irresponsible paternity issues, Deputy Julio Romero is also being accused of illegal human trafficking. Former Migration Director Taina Gautreau said that Romero, the PRD deputy for Santo Domingo, "ran a major 'consulate' from his home." Gautreau said that Romero was the largest organizer of illegal trips in Santo Domingo East. She said that, "he even went as far as to trick young women, offering them the trips of their dreams." Gautreau, who was the head of Migration in 1996, also said that on that occasion the legislator threatened to kill her with an Uzi machine gun that he was carrying at that time. She said, "He warned me that if anything happened to him, I would be responsible".
The former immigration official said that Romero was followed with an infrared camera and that documents were seized from a secret compartment hidden in the floor of his house. She made these comments on the case to Huchi Lora on his CDN-La Radio program.
Romero says he is willing to waive his parliamentary immunity to face any formal charges.

Police probe Baldera kidnap case
Even though the National Police had control of the circumstances of the kidnapping of Eduardo Antonio Baldera Gomez from the first moments, there are persisting doubts surrounding the way the episode ended. According to police information obtained by Diario Libre, the case is being linked to a leftist political organization, some of whose members had connections with military personnel. The group behind the kidnapping was led by Cecilio Diaz, whose death, together with that of William Batista Checo, is still being investigated.
According to the information, local people handed Batista Checo over to a police unit and he confessed that he was involved in the kidnapping. Later, he helped take the police units to the kidnappers' hideout. Upon reaching Los Artiles Alley in La Baitoa, Villa Vasquez, in Monte Cristi, they were attacked by unknown assailants. William and Sergeant Catalino Perez were wounded in this incident, the police shot "an unknown person" and the others got away. The unknown person, identified by his family in the morgue as Cecilio Diaz, is the same man who according to sources in Villa Vasquez had been detained that same day by members of the Dominican Navy in Las Canas, also in Villa Vasquez. The Navy confirmed this information to several media sources. The people responsible for planning Baldera Gomez's kidnapping are said to belong to an organization called "Nacion Solidaria" and are involved in at least five other kidnappings, according to police sources. Their members also belong to protest groups, leftist leaders, colonels and generals according to information received by the newspaper.
The Police mentioned the Ulerio kidnap case in San Francisco de Macoris in August 2000 with a US$3,000,000 ransom demand, where the victim was held for 31 days. Eight people were involved in that case, named as Bienvenido and Esmerly Custodio, Teldon Mordan, Arcadio Genao (El Chino), Cecilio Diaz, Ramon, Rolando Mejia and Ruben Dario Cisnero Nunez. The last five are also mentioned in connection with the kidnapping of the businessman Fernando Capellan in August 2002 in Santiago, which also involved Rafael Villa Cartagena, Jose Cartagena, Domingo Villa and Jose Liriano. The group was joined by Danny and Jose Caba Tineo for the 14-day kidnapping of Benjamin Reyes (El Gringo) in Santiago in 2005, where the ransom demand was also for US$3,000,000. Three others were involved in this case. In the case of Baldera Gomez, Caba Tineo together with the five and Juan Almonte, who is still missing, were named as the persons responsible.
Almost RD$6 million was spent during the 22-day search for Baldera Gomez, according to some Police estimates. Some 600 additional members of the police were brought in for the search, and they used at least 50 vehicles, 90 motorcycles and three helicopters. The communications system alone cost RD$5000 a day, plus another RD$100,000 in per diems. A map of calls that was made by the Police enabled them to monitor communications traffic between the kidnappers, the victim's family and Virgilio Almanzar from the Human Rights Committee.

Santiago kidnappers in custody
A Santiago judge sent 4 people to preventive custody last night. They are accused of involvement in the kidnapping of 5-year old Angel Agustin Jimenez last Tuesday. Judge Henry Dominguez ordered 3-month prison terms for Julissa de los Santos Sanchez, 19, a cousin of the child's mother, Luz del Alba Pena, Ivelisse Perez Rodriguez (a.k.a. Paloma) and Jose Rafael Rodriguez. Prosecutor Yenny Berenice Reynoso said the measure matched the severity of the crime, which now carries a maximum 30-year jail sentence. The other 3 people who had been detained in Mao were released. Julissa's lawyer, Eugenio D'Aza, said that he would show the court that no kidnapping had taken place and that he would appeal the preventive custody decision handed down by Dominguez.

Dengue death rate too high
The Dominican Republic's death rate from dengue is 15% higher than the accepted average. International organizations quote 1% as the typical death rate for victims of the mosquito-borne disease, but in the Dominican Republic the fatality rate is currently at 16%, with 27 deaths out of 3,700 suspected cases. Yesterday, the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) representative for the DR, Cristina Noguiera, said that she was worried about the situation and attributed the high number of fatalities to poor handling of the cases. She also pointed to the lack of potable water and deficiencies in hygiene and garbage collections in the country. Noguiera said that a lack of basic hygiene in the Dominican Republic allows mosquitoes to breed, and she called on mayors to help in the fight to eliminate breeding areas. She added that "if there is adequate handling of cases, only 1% of the patients might die, and the nearly 16% that we have in the Dominican Republic is really pitiful". Public Health Minister Bautista Rojas Gomez reminded reporters of the long-standing campaigns that emphasize the use of covers and chlorine in water storage vessels. He also mentioned the poor handling of some cases, such as a child who was brought to Santo Domingo from La Romana by car, with a blocked saline drip. The boy died as he reached the Children's Hospital, and the case is under investigation.

Doctors brain drain
Yesterday's DR1 News reported that the DR and Costa Rica are the two countries in the region with the greatest number of doctors per 10,000 inhabitants. Today, Listin Diario reports that the DR is also among the nations affected by the emigration of health professionals to more developed nations. All this information is found in the Dominican Republic and Central American Health Agenda, 2009-2018, that was approved last January and whose impact was discussed yesterday during the Second Preparatory Meeting of the XXV Health Sector Meeting for Central America and the Dominican Republic (Resscad), chaired by Dominican Health Minister Bautista Rojas Gomez.
Both the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica have 20 doctors for every 10,000 inhabitants. Belize and Guatemala are the countries with the fewest doctors, with just 8.5 and 9.7 per 10,000 respectively. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that in order to reach "minimum coverage", there should be 25 professionals (doctors and nurses) for every 10,000 inhabitants. The DR is also at the top of the list in "beds per 10,000 inhabitants" with 2, followed by Panama, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guatemala. The health agenda has the objective of jointly treating health issues that affect the region such as dengue, malaria, filariasis, HIV-AIDS and tuberculosis.

Indotel hails Tricom deal
Dominican Telecommunications Institute (Indotel) president Jose Rafael Vargas has welcomed what he described as "a great step forward" for Tricom. The Dominican telecommunications group received approval for its Financial Restructuring Plan from the Chapter 11 court in New York City yesterday.
Vargas said that, "with the ratification of the plan, Tricom sets a very positive precedent that will be reflected by strengthening the nation's telecommunications". After the approval of the restructuring plan in the US, Tricom now needs to carry out several corporate steps in the Dominican Republic that will allow it to finally implement the restructuring, including approval from Indotel for the transfer of the control of the company to the new shareholders.
Vargas urged the new shareholders to make the investments needed in order for the company as soon as possible, to achieve an increase in its competitive levels and so that users of its telecommunications services may benefit from new technologies and better prices.

Step out for Life
Next Sunday, 25 October, beginning at 8:00am and for the fourth consecutive year, you can donate your steps at the Walk for Life 2009 at the National Botanical Gardens. Walk for Life is an event promoted by the MercaSID company to raise funds for institutions that help cancer patients. The main beneficiary institutions are: the League against Cancer (Liga Contra el Cancer), the Dominican Miracles of Charity Pharmacy (Farmacia Dominicana Milagros de la Caridad), the Friends against Cancer Foundation (Fundacion Amigos contra el Cancer), Jesus with the Children Voluntary Service (Voluntariado Jesus con los Ninos) and Plaza de la Salud Voluntary Service (Voluntariado Plaza de la Salud) and people who cannot pay for their treatment.
Registration costs just RD$350 per person, and includes a T-shirt. Promotional items are also on sale at the registration locations to help raise funds for the cause. People can register at places including Haagen Daz, Multicentro Churchill, Bella Vista Mall, Megacentro, Jardin Botanico, MercaSID and Voluntariado de Jesus con los Ninos.
Let's go walking for a good cause!

Baseball Roundup
Last night only one game was played and the Gigantes from San Francisco de Macoris defeated the Toros del Este from La Romana on a dramatic, ninth-inning error by opposing pitcher Carlos Yan that allowed the winning run to score from third. For the second night in a row Mark Wagner hit a homerun in the come-from-behind win for the Gigantes, who are 2-0 at home and 0-3 on the road.
Team W-L Avg. Diff.
LICEY 3 - 2 .600 --
AGUILAS 3 - 2 .600 --
AZUCAREROS 3 - 2 .600 --
GIGANTES 2 - 3 .400 1.0
ESCOGIDO 2 - 3 .400 1.0
ESTRELLAS 2 - 3 .400 1.0
Today's games and probable starting pitchers
- Santo Domingo, Estadio Quisqueya at 7:30pm.:
Estrellas, E. McLane (R), Licey, J. Mercedes (R)
- San Francisco de Macoris, Julian Javier Stadium, 7:30pm.:
Escogido, E. Nova (R), Gigantes, L Villareal (R)
- La Romana, Francisco Micheli Stadium 7:30pm.:
Aguilas, B. Jukich (R), Azucareros, F. Abad (R)
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